We were previously taught in the Mishna (Yoma 7:1, 68b) that included among the duties of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur was to read select passages from the Torah about Yom Kippur (specifically, Vayikra 16:1-34 and Vayikra 23:26-32). Having done so, the Kohen Gadol then pronounced: יותר ממה שקראתי לפניכם כתוב כאן – “More than what I have read to you is written here”, and he would then recite a further passage (from Bemidbar 29:7-11) by heart.
As we are taught in today’s daf (Yoma 70a), the reason for the Kohen Gadol reciting this ‘additional’ portion (which details the mussaf offerings on Yom Kippur) by heart, rather than from the Torah text, was because it would take some time to roll the Sefer Torah from Vayikra to Bemidbar. Thus, out of respect for the congregation this extra passage was read by heart.
But why was it necessary for the Kohen Gadol to say, “more than what I have read to you is written here”? Surely, by virtue of the fact that he was reading from a Torah scroll, it was clearly visible to all those present that there is much more text in the Torah than the short passages which he had just read?!
The Gemara answers this question by stating, כדי שלא להוציא לעז על ספר תורה – “so that aspersions are not cast on the Torah scroll”, meaning that the Kohen Gadol was actually saying, “More than what I have read to you about Yom Kippur is written here in the Torah”, and so when he came to read the further passage by heart, the people would know that these verses can also be found in a Torah scroll.
However, I would like to offer a further explanation of these two statements of יותר ממה שקראתי לפניכם כתוב כאן – “more than what I have read to you is written here”, and כדי שלא להוציא לעז על ספר תורה – “so that aspersions are not cast on the Torah scroll” relating to the importance of Rabbis and Jewish Educators avoiding giving shallow and simplistic perspectives and answers to complex issues, and the need for them to offer regular disclaimers in their responses to the questions they are asked.
Unfortunately, even when addressing a highly complex question, some Rabbis, religious leaders and educators are tempted to present what they think is ‘the’ answer – as if whatever they are about to say is the sum-total Torah perspective on that topic.
Yet in almost every single case, whatever that Rabbi, religious leader or educator does say is an incomplete presentation of a variety of different perspectives of the Torah, meaning that, to paraphrase our Gemara: “far more than whatever has been answered is written here in the Torah.”
And why is it important for such a disclaimer to be made? “So that aspersions are not cast on the Torah scroll”, i.e. so that people do not come to think that Torah, and Judaism, is about providing shallow and simplistic answers to complex issues.
Of course, it would be nice to think that every question and topic can be comprehensively addressed. But wherever that is not done or is not possible, it is important for the individual concerned to momentarily view themselves as a Kohen Gadol and to say to their listeners, just as the Kohen Gadol did, “more than what I have read to you is written here” (which not only will communicate that whatever answer has been given is incomplete, but will also foster curiosity from the listener to learn more about the topic themselves).
And by doing so this, will ensure that כדי שלא להוציא לעז על ספר תורה – aspersions are not cast, חס ושלום, on the Torah.